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Amidst changing restrictions and health concerns, the outlook for the future of the events industry looks a lot different than it did a year ago. However in the wake of every crisis comes innovation, and startups like NOQ are tackling the challenge head-on.
While its cutting-edge ordering and payments app is conducive to a safer entertainment industry, it also unlocks benefits for event providers and a more convenient experience for guests. With growing partnerships in F&B, POS systems and leaders in event management, NOQ is gearing up to build an all-in-one platform for events – in-app schedules, ticket sales, merchandise ordering, advertising, you name it.
We sat down with CEO Param Kanabar to find out what the events industry looks like in 2021 and beyond, and how NOQ will help it return in full force.
What first inspired the idea for NOQ?
While at the Rock in Rio in Lisbon, I was listening to my favourite artist and having the time of my life. As I looked to get my next pint, I suddenly realised it was going to be time consuming. The thought of topping up, standing in a queue and missing out on the music just didn’t seem appealing. This is where the idea for NOQ came about.
Had you ever pursued entrepreneurship before this?
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, following suit from successful business entrepreneurs within my family. I started as a kid, buying and selling marbles, which then moved onto Pokemon cards, football stickers and then sim cards! Since the age of 16, I held a part-time job selling glasses and mobile phones. After my university degree, I went down the corporate career path, with the intent to always come back and start my own business.
How did you go about choosing your core team?
People are pivotal to any business, especially at the start. You want to surround yourself with individuals who drive you, support you and stick through the rough patches. I have built a team with close friends who have the right skill sets to fulfil the essential tasks of the business. We are a driven, tight-knit team aiming to grow rapidly. Our offices opened up in Tottenham Court Road on the 14th of April, and the work environment is amazing! We focus on four core functions: sales, product, operations and marketing, and the core team includes one strong member for each area.
What is NOQ doing that truly stands out from other players in the market?
We have branded ourselves as an app specialised in events. Running events is a blend between a strong, versatile product and operational excellence. The combination of both these elements is what will allow us to build trust in the industry and prove our success at various types of events. This year, we are covering multiple types of events; from music festivals to pet shows; from comedy shows to bike shows, air shows and more. Additionally, our B2B2C strategy versus our competitors’ B2B approach will give us a strong foothold in the industry.
Covid-19 has forced the event industry to change and adapt – how is this solution suited to a post-pandemic world?
Covid-19 has meant mobile ordering apps have gone from a nice-to-have to a necessity. We started on this journey pre-Covid to tackle the issues around queue management. So the impact of Covid-19 has been two fold:
Firstly, there has been an increase in demand for the product and the industry became well versed in using this type of technology, which has consequently led to high customer adoption. Secondly, new businesses have come into the space to offer a solution during the current climate and post-Covid. The market need is growing rapidly and there are a lot of opportunities
What are the key features of your tech that give NOQ a strong competitive advantage?
NOQ is a native marketplace app. This in itself presents a lot of opportunities. Native apps allow us to tap into location settings and notification settings, which are key to increase fan engagement and operate events successfully. Web applications – which most competitors offer – are a short-cut solution, which fit the purpose for restaurants and pubs. Marketplaces are initially a tougher sell to bring on businesses, as they all want their own branding and whitelabel apps. But the power of the marketplace increases as users and businesses increase, which we are en-route for.
Our business model has longevity and a long-term vision, as an end-user does not want to download multiple apps at multiple events and venues. From a businesses perspective, to tackle the need for a personalised app, our product is now providing an intelligent user interface with the ‘own branded’ feeling, whilst growing our own marketplace.
What has been one of the most exciting successes for the business so far and how did your team celebrate?
Landing investment for an idea related to events during Covid-19 was initially such a tough task. I am very proud of where we have gotten since our launch only 9 months ago. Over 15,000 users, multiple caterers and events using us, landing a tech investment for a team of 7 full-time developers for 3-years, closing a friends and family round of 116k and now Seedrs! All during Covid. There is great momentum to the business and we are fully driving for success.
What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge going forward?
Patience and persistence is the key to success. Many businesses fail because they feel like they are hitting a wall. It is important to be agile and pivot as needed and keep an eye on the long-term vision. Players are going to enter the market as it grows, but the businesses who grow organically, through strong relationships and trust will create the right presence in the industry.
What will be the primary use of proceeds from this round?
54% of the funding is going towards staff costs for 4 full-time members including myself. This is the first time our business will have full-time members working on the project. Thus far it has been part-time with us all having day jobs. This is why we believe we can now scale rapidly, dedicating our 100% to it and pushing the sales and marketing channels. The remainder of the proceeds will be used for marketing, product needs and F&G.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in starting a business?
You have to make decisions with your head and not your heart. I am a very passionate person and naturally listen to my heart a lot! Having a business of my own, has taught me to operate with my head and understand what is being put on the table and what is in it for us. Strategic thinking is key to ensuring our long-term success.
What’s been a silver lining of the UK lockdown?
UK lockdown has meant more savings, healthier investments, especially in crypto and equity markets!
What kind of event are you looking forward to most as the world opens back up?
Music and food festivals are my favourite. I love good music and tasting a range of flavours. We are very excited with the events we are working on this year and look forward to listening to James Morrison ‘You Give Me Something’ at Park Proms. Hopefully with the app being used, I may get to squeeze in some backstage time!
To find out more about NOQ and for the opportunity to invest, check out the pitch now.